The Chocolate Cult: Meet the Man behind Amano Artisan Chocolate

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Meet the Man behind Amano Artisan Chocolate

Art Pollard on Cocoa Pods
Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, please help me welcome Art Pollard from Amano Artisan Chocolate. Thank you for answering our questions today, Mr. Pollard.

Let's begin with the basics. How did you get into the chocolate business?

Growing up, I was always a foodie. I loved finding the very best food.  It didn't have to be at an expensive restaurant but it did have to be good. Because of this, I was always on the hunt. I also always enjoyed cooking.  It allowed me to create foods of the quality I enjoyed and it provided me with a good challenge. I love the
challenge of cooking and pretty much any challenge really. While in college, I was working for my university's physics department
designing and building equipment for them. I was eating a German
chocolate bar that I had purchased at the bookstore over lunch. I
made an off hand comment that it would be interesting making my own
chocolate. All my coworkers told me that it couldn't be done.  I
asked why. They said there were many trade secrets. I loved that.
That would be a great research project. They said I'd need millions
of dollars of machinery. Not a problem. I'd been building (or
working on) millions of dollars of machinery for the University. So I
could build it myself. They said I'd need good quality cocoa beans
and that they came from South and Central America. I thought "Fine,
I'll go get my own." The challenge of everyone telling me that I
couldn't do it plus my passion for machinery and fine food told me
that this was the perfect fit.

Do you consider Amano to be a family business?

Absolutely. I have always wanted to build the company and pass it
down within the family. I wanted a company that actually means
something and not one that passes through many hands and means less
every time it is traded. So the entire family has pitched in since
the very beginning. My kids learned early on to operate the machinery
and how to do most all of the tasks within the factory. It has always
been a family endeavor and I'm going to fight to ensure that it always
will be.

Amano offers dark chocolate bars, flavored and inclusion bars, and
also chips. Would you explain the difference to our readers who may be
unfamiliar with the term "inclusion" when applied to food?

An inclusion bar is a bar where other ingredients are "included". So,
for example, a chocolate bar with almonds in it would be an "inclusion
bar" and the almonds would be the "inclusions". Inclusions allow the
chocolate to potentially be even better than before or to invoke a
memory or feeling if they are done right. I love the creativity that
they allow.

A lot of small chocolate and candy makers feel like they have to
offer a wide range of products, why does Amano focus on bars and
chips?

Mostly because we do not have a storefront. It is easier to do many
of these other things if you have a store. Instead, we have focused
on selling our chocolates into other people's stores. It is a lot
easier for us to manage in terms of personnel, inventory, and time. The way we do it, it allows us to concentrate on what we do best -- make chocolate.

What is your best selling chocolate bar?

Raspberry Rose. We integrated raspberry powder and rose petals into
the chocolate making process. It is really wonderful. Our two other
most popular bars are Dos Rios and Madagascar. Dos Rios naturally
tastes like burgamot orange and lavender because of how the beans are
processed. Madagascar is light and citrusy. They are both wonderful
chocolates.

Milk chocolate continues to be the best selling type of chocolate in the American market. Why have you focused on dark chocolate?

Mostly because I like dark chocolate better. We've done milk in the past and odds are I'll be bringing back some milks sometime this next year. But really, I love the flavor varieties I can get with dark chocolates the best.

What is the one thing you wish your customers understood better
about the chocolate business?

It is hard. Very hard. It is hard on me and my family as chocolate
makers, it is hard to transport for the transportation workers, it is
hard to grow and process the beans for the farmers, it is very hard
for everyone -- especially if they all plan on working together to
bring about a superior product.

2020 and 2021 was a rough year globally, yet your company has had
to overcome some deep tragedies recently. What are your hopes for the
future of Amano Artisan Chocolate in the next couple of years as well
as for the next couple of decades?

I'd love to see Amano really take off this next year. Amano has
always been the little secret behind many top chefs and restaurants.
I've never been the best sales person, if I were Amano would
admittedly be much further ahead. But, I've been working on putting
together a strong sales team so it isn't a responsibility that falls
on my shoulders and they can do best what they do best and I can focus
on what I do best -- making chocolate.

Finally, a fun question which really is the most important
question: Are you a chocolate lover? If so, what is your favorite type
of chocolate?

Yes, I love chocolate.  That's why I've stuck with it for so many
years.  I actually love that it is difficult, that's what makes it
interesting.   My favorite?  Amano.  I make chocolate to be the way I
believe that chocolate should be.  So when I make our chocolate, it
sings to my soul since that is what I put into it.

Thank you, Art, for answering our questions. Readers, please ask follow-up questions or leave comments about this interview.

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